Lithuania signs the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention to end impunity for the most serious international crimes

Minister of Justice Ewelina Dobrowolska signed the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention to strengthen cross-border cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes.

By taking this step, Lithuania, together with other countries, is creating a framework for the investigation of crimes, the provision of legal assistance, extradition and the transfer of sentenced persons for further service of custodial sentences between the countries that do not have bilateral agreements.

According to Ms Dobrowolska, now it is extremely important to prevent international criminals from absconding and their impunity, especially outside the European Union. This Convention will create the legal prerequisites for the States not only to obtain assistance in criminal proceedings for the crimes defined in the Rome Statute, but also for its application to other crimes listed in the Annexes to the Convention, such as the crime of aggression. The Convention also establishes the rule of universal jurisdiction, obliging a State to prosecute on the sole ground that a person is present in that State, irrespective of the person's citizenship or the place where the crime was committed.

“This instrument of cooperation will help the States to deliver justice in a smooth and prompt manner. So far, not a single international treaty has addressed major international crimes and set out not only the rules of criminalisation and jurisdiction, but also clear mechanisms of cross-border cooperation in investigations. The more States accede to this Convention, the greater its added value will be,” emphasised Ms Dobrowolska.

The Convention defines a clear basis for the provision of legal assistance, extradition and the transfer of sentenced persons for continued service of custodial sentences for specific crimes. The Convention also contains a separate chapter on the protection of victims, witnesses, experts, and on the rights of victims, including their right to reparation for harm.

The Convention will formally enter into force three months after its ratification by the third State.

The Convention has also been signed by Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Rwanda, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uruguay.

The initiative of this type of international treaty was born in 2011, following the Mutual Legal Assistance Initiative by Argentina, Belgium, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Senegal and Slovenia. The need for the Convention arose from the arguments that the existing legal regulation in international treaties is fragmented and insufficient for smooth national investigations of major international crimes.

Lithuania formally expressed its support for the initiation of such an international treaty in 2013 and became one of the states supporting the initiative. The Convention was adopted unanimously by 68 States at the diplomatic conference in Ljubljana (Republic of Slovenia) that took place between 15 and 26 May 2023.
The official signing ceremony of the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention takes place in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The text of the Convention is available here: https://shorturl.at/oABFT.